The journalism world is going through a tough stretch with the untimely passing of CBS News reporter Bob Simon, New York Times media critic David Carr and Alison Gordon, a pioneer in baseball writing.
Gordon, who covered the Blue Jays for the Toronto Star, was the first woman in the Baseball Writers Association of America, which didn’t allow women until 1979. The principal reason was a pig-headed MLB rule that prohibited women from clubhouses.
But even after that ban was lifted, Gordon faced hurdles in her coverage. The Star’s obituary makes mention of her first trip to Arlington, and then-Rangers general manager Eddie Robinson closing the clubhouse to all reporters.
That’s not quite accurate, according to Randy Galloway, who was with the Dallas Morning News in 1979, and Jim Reeves of the Star-Telegram. Only Gordon was banned, and that didn’t go over well with all the writers covering the game April 26, 1979.
Here’s Reeves’ account. He was the BBWAA chairman that year.
“On the day of the first game of a three-game series with Toronto, the Jays’ first trip to town that season, we learned that Rangers players, knowing that the first female baseball writer had been accredited by the BBWAA, had voted in spring training to close the clubhouse to all media … then proceeded to waive their own rule until Toronto came to town.
“After the first game, the writers, Toronto’s included, trooped down to the Rangers’ clubhouse at old Arlington Stadium. We were stopped at the door by a guard who told us that the clubhouse was closed to the media but that he would bring manager Pat Corrales and anyone else we wanted out into the tunnel to be interviewed. That tunnel was dark, steamy and hot. The writers agreed that, under those circumstances, none of us would talk to any of them and we would write our stories without quotes.
“The next day, before the game, I approached Fergie Jenkins, who was pitching that night, and Al Oliver and set it up for them to jump on Joe Macko’s golf cart and come to the press box following the game. It turned out perfectly: Jenkins pitched masterfully for the win, and Oliver had the game-winning hit.
“Meanwhile, Robinson had been out of town for the first two games but had heard about the incident at the stadium with the clubhouse being closed. When he returned, he met with the writers and took control of the situation, telling the players that the clubhouse belonged to the ballclub and would be open to all media, regardless of gender or anything else.
“Rather than being the villain, Robinson did the right thing.”
Galloway remembers being equally peeved.
“We said, ‘Then, nobody goes in,” Galloway said. “There were four [DFW] papers then, and none of us went in. She loved the Texas writers.”
Galloway confirmed Ferguson Jenkins, Oliver and clubhouse manager Macko, who died in December, saved the day after the next game.
“They came to the press box, and we interviewed them right there,” Galloway said.
Gordon, who passed away Thursday at age 72, wrote a book about her five years on the beat called Foul Ball: Five Years in the American League, and later wrote five baseball-themed mysteries (The Dead Pull Hitter, 1988; Safe at Home, 1990; Night Game, 1992; Striking Out, 1995; Prairie Hardball, 1997) that were solved by reporter/sleuth Kate Henry.
Jeff Wilson, 817-390-7760